What are the signs of arthritis in dogs?

Cute dog

How common is arthritis in dogs?

Arthritis in dogs is very common. Exact figures vary but it has been estimated to affect up to up to 38% of dogs. There are an estimated 10 million pet dogs in the UK so this means a significant proportion of our pets could be affected with arthritis which can substantially affect their quality of life. Arthritis is a painful disease of the joints which is progressive in nature; it cannot be cured but it can be managed to ensure dogs can continue to have a good quality of life. It is also worth bearing in mind that some of the symptoms of arthritis can be subtle or maybe simply attributed to increasing age and therefore go unrecognised, so it’s very possible that the true prevalence of this disease may be higher. All ages, breeds and sizes of dogs can be affected, it is not just a disease of older and bigger dogs. However, whilst this disease can affect all dogs, there are some breeds in particular who are predisposed to developmental joint disease and consequently arthritis; common examples would be the Labrador retriever and hip dysplasia or the English Springer spaniel and elbow dysplasia.

What are the signs of arthritis in dogs to look for?

Our dogs may not be able to communicate to us in words, but there are many signs of arthritis that you can look for that could indicate that your dog is one of those affected:

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It is important to note that you, as your dog’s owner, are best placed to spot signs of change as you will know what is normal for them. The list above highlights that limping is just one of the many indicators that can signal arthritis; many are more subtle and could easily be missed as potential signs. Many dogs will also continue to want to go for a walk despite having advanced joint disease in some cases so we need to be aware of the early signs and intervene at this stage.

What should I do if I suspect my dog has arthritis?

If you spot one or more of these signs of arthritis, a visit to your vet would be recommended so a full clinical examination can be carried out. Though arthritis cannot be cured, there are now many treatment and management options that can help to manage the pain and improve overall quality of life for your dog.


Reference: Pet Population. PFMA. (2020). Available online at: https://www.pfma.org.uk/pet-population-2018 (accessed September 8th 2020)